Voo Davis, Midnight Mist (Butter & Bacon Records)

What do you get when a 21st Century white boy makes the same exodus as those of his blues idols—leaving Alabama for the big bad lights of Chiraq, um, Chicago?

It could have been a disaster for singer/songwriter/guitarist Voo Davis, but unlike a lot of his blues-rock peers, he never gets tripped up by authenticity. That is, he knows his education came secondhand through classic rock (the blues of the suburban South, never doubt it) and he uses all those stylistic tricks to his advantage. His first two releases were about proving he belonged on that stage.

Now with his third, he’s concentrating on the songs. And swinging for the rafters.

Voo’s vocals don’t sound like much at first, gruff but without a lot of range, but he invests so much emotionally in these 14 (!) meaty originals that you start to feel at home the way he marries Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers’ bark with Rod Stewart’s bite.

Then the details kick in, and even though his lyrical obsessions are pretty standard—the classic blues treatise on the slippery nature of happiness, usually embodied in a nearby woman—his attention to nuance makes them into something much more.
There’s “Find Me a Blackbone,” which uses echo like Hendrix used feedback, the canned and nearly chamber-pop string quartet that turns the pain of “Howling out Your Name” into something redemptive, and the dangerously SoCal soft-rock polish he’s not afraid to apply to “Laughing’ Out Loud.”

He’s still real enough to rock out (the riff of “My Love” is about as crunchy as they come) or let the Piedmont color gentle shuffles like the title track and “Nothing Changed at All.” And if he wanted to divert your attention from the neck of his guitar, Davis has triumphed completely.

It’s only when he rips out a wild solo on every fifth track or so that you remember how he got everyone’s attention in the first place.